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Biden talks to Sanders about moving forward with vetting potential VP candidates

The Democratic front-runner also said during a virtual fundraiser that he could easily pick out his cabinet in 15 minutes if he was pressured to.
Image: Joe Biden
Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden speaks about COVID-19, known as the Coronavirus, during a press event in Wilmington, Delaware on March 12, 2020.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images file

WASHINGTON – In a virtual fundraiser with donors Friday night, former Vice President Joe Biden said that he has formally alerted Sen. Bernie Sanders that he will move forward with a vice presidential vetting process even though neither has become the Democratic nominee.

He also disclosed to donors participating in the billed “fireside chat” that he has had casual conversations with emerging leaders in the Democratic Party about possibly serving in his administration if he’s elected President of the United States.

Biden, who leads Sanders in the delegate count by 313, according to NBC News' tally, said that he wanted to personally alert Sanders that he will announce his vetting committee in mid-April as it appears that his pathway to clinching the nomination is more likely than that of the Vermont senator’s.

“I don’t want him to think I’m being presumptuous, but you have to start now deciding on who you’re going to have background checks done on as potential vice presidential candidates and it takes time,” he said.

In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel last week, Biden said he felt “almost guilty” talking about the process of choosing his vice president — who he has pledged would be a woman — even though he has not been chosen as the Democratic nominee.

Biden, who said he has consulted with President Barack Obama about the inner working of the vetting process, admitted that he now has more time to consider a vice presidential pick given that the Democratic convention has been moved back a month to August.

The call marks the first time that Biden has acknowledged having a one-on-one conversation with Sanders since the two Democratic candidates debated head-to-head for the first time last month after Biden swept numerous state primaries. Sanders has said that he is reevaluating his campaign with staff and supporters, noting that he believes he still has a narrow path to the nomination.

NBC News has reached out to the Sanders campaign for comment on the call.

In response to a question about how best to reassure voters about his age, Biden, 77, told the reported 118 donors on the virtual call that he would “build a bench of younger, really qualified people” to fill his cabinet so that they “have an opportunity to rise up” in politics.

Biden said that he had spoken to some politicians about whether they would be willing to join his administration were he to be elected in November, but clarified that he had not floated nor offered specific positions to anyone. He told donors he has only spoken to his inner circle of confidants about who he would want placed in specific roles like Secretary of State to Attorney General.

“I can think of, if I had to, if Lord Almighty came down and said ‘you’re president tomorrow, write down in the next 15 minutes your cabinet,’ I think I could do it,” he said.

The former vice president has often noted that whomever he chooses to be his running mate and potentially serve in his cabinet will also represent the bridge between his generation of politics and theirs, often describing himself as a “transitional” leader.

Although this is the first time Biden has discussed the model of his cabinet with this much detail, he reiterated his commitment to picking an administration that as he has often described “looks like America” because he believes that different backgrounds “brings a slightly different perspective” to the negotiating table.

“At the end of the day, the people who will join my cabinet, God-willing, if I become the president, it’s almost presumptuous talking about it a little bit, will be people who represent the spectrum of our party and who look like the country.”

Biden has mentioned Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Stacey Abrams among others as potential women he’d consider to be his vice president.

“There’s a lot of really, really qualified people who I think have the same view that I have, which is it’s not about going back to 2008 or 2012. It’s about moving ahead significantly."

In an interview with Brian Williams on the 11th Hour on Tuesday, Biden was asked whether his personal short list has lengthened to include Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer given the attention she has received in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She didn’t lengthen the list. She made the list in my mind two months ago,” Biden said.